> Louis Killen > Songs > The Verdant Braes of Skreen
> Martyn Wyndham-Read > Songs > As I Roved Out
> June Tabor > Songs > The Old Garden Gate

The Verdant Braes of Skreen / As I Roved Out / The Old Garden Gate

[ Roud 419 ; Ballad Index FJ166 ; trad.]

Frank and Francis McPeake from Belfast sang The False Young Man, accompanied by uillean pipes, in a recording made by Peter Kennedy, on the anthology Songs of Courtship (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 1; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1970). The McPeake Trio also sang this as The Verdant Braes of Skreen with harp accompaniment in another Peter Kennedy recording that was made in 1961. It was included in 1995 on the Saydisc anthology Traditional Songs of Ireland. The McPeake Family also sang this in a 1962 Bill Leader recording that was published in the following year on their eponymous Topic album The McPeake Family. This album was reissued in 2009 as part of their Topic CD Wild Mountain Thyme. They also sang this song live during a concert presented by the English Folk, Dance and Song Society at the Royal Festival Hall, London on June 4, 1965. This concert was released in 1965 on the HMV LP Folksound of Britain, on which the song was named The Verdant Braes of Skrene [sic]. The liner notes of the McPeake's 2009 CD commented:

One of the best-loved of Co. Derry ballads. Herbert Hughes liked it so well, he made it No. 1 in the first volume of his Irish Country Songs [London, 1909]. It also appears in Hayward's Ulster Songs and Ballads (London, 1925). Francis [McPeake] senior learnt his version from his father, and of it he said: “Though I'm Belfast born, my heart is in Derry.”

Louis Killen sang Verdant Braes of Skreen live at the 1963 Edinburgh Folk Festival. Eric Winter commented in the album's sleeve notes:

Verdant Braes of Skreen is from the repertoire of the famous McPeake Family of Belfast. The McPeakes sing it with group harmonies but Louis Killen, who sings the song here, makes up for the absence of harmonies by his fine dramatic treatment. Killen is one of the most articulate of the lyrical singers thrown up by the great folk revival in North-East England, and he is as well known on Tees-side and in London as he is on his native Tyneside.

Louis Killen also recorded this song with the alternate title The Verdant Braes of Skrene in between 1991 and 1993 in San Francisco for his 1995 CD A Bonny Bunch. He commented in his liner notes:

Determination in the face of rejection is presented in The Verdant Braes of Skrene (source: Shirley Collins) which comes from the repertory of the McPeake family.

Anne Briggs sang The Verdant Braes of Skreen live at the Nottingham Co-op Folk Workshop in 1965. This recording made by Gren Blatherwick was included in 2016 on her Fledg'ling 7" EP Four Songs.

Nigel Denver sang The Verdant Braes of Skreen, “an Irish tale which Nigel first heard sung by the McPeake Family”, on his 1967 Decca album Rebellion!.

Paddie Bell sang The Verdant Braes of Skreen in 1968 on her EMI album I Know Where I'm Going.

Patti Reid sang Garden Gate in 1987 on her Fellside album Patti Reid.

John Renbourn, Maggie Boyle and Steve Tilston sang The Verdant Braes of Skreen in 1988 on their album John Renbourn's Ship of Fools. This track was also included in 2007 on Steve Tilston's Free Reed anthology Reaching Back. This video shows Steve Tilston and Maggie Boyle sing it live at The Albert Hole, Bristol on October 5, 1990:

Swan Arcade sang The Verdant Braes of Skreen in 1990 on their CD Full Circle.

Debra Cowan sang Verdant Braes of Skreen on her 2001 CD The Long Grey Line. She commented:

From the singing of Steve Tilston and Maggie Boyle.

Another ‘False Young Man’ ballad, this one comes from Ireland and credits Frank and Francis McPeake of Belfast as the source singers of this version.

Susan McKeown sang The Wee Birds All Have Come and Gone, accompanied by Flook, in 2004 on her World Village CD Sweet Liberty.

Jeff Gillett sang The Old Garden Gate on the 2005 Musical Traditions anthology Songs from the Golden Fleece. He commented:

A simply gorgeous melody. I found this in Roy Palmer's book, Folk Songs Collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams. It was collected from a Mr Broomfield of West Horndon, Essex, in 1903. He called it As I Walked Out, though it's most frequently known as The False Young Man. The arrangement is mine.

Martyn Wyndham-Read sang As I Roved Out in 2005 in the English part of the anthology Song Links 2: A Celebration of English Traditional Songs and Their American Variants and in 2010 on his CD Back to You. Shirley Collins commented in the latter CD's notes:

This exquisite love song was collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1904 from a Mr. Broomfield, in the village of East Hornden, in Essex. Vaughan Williams wrote: “… the tune is a good example of the extraordinary breadth and melodic sweep to be found in English folk song” and he considered these lovely melodies to be part of a “precious heritage”.

I suggested to Martyn that he should sing it on Song Links 2, and so lovely was his interpretation of it, and so subtle and heart-breakingly beautiful was Iris Bishop's arrangement and playing of it, that I felt they had made the song completely their own. So it has every right to be here on this album.

June Tabor sang The Old Garden Gate on her 2007 Topic CD Apples. She commented in her sleeve notes:

Collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams from Mr Broomfield, a woodcutter of West Horndon, Essex, on December 4, 1903, with additional verses from other variants of The False Young Man. The telling imagery of the English love lyric is in all its glory here.

Lauren McCormick sang Garden Gate on her 2012 WildGoose album On Bluestockings.

I have loved this song since I was lucky enough to be involved in the Song Links 2 project with Shirley Collins and Martyn Wyndham Reed. Martyn sang the version on the English CD and the very wonderful Kieron Means sang the American version. Martyn’s version had a more complete narrative but Kieron’s version had such lovely lyrical verses that just broke my heart. I loved them both so much that I stole Martyn’s version in its entirety and also quite a few verses from Kieron.

Jon Boden sang The Verdant Braes of Skreen as the May 4, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Lyrics

Louis Killen sings The Verdant Braes of Skreen

As I walked out on a May morning
By the verdant braes of Skreen,
I set my back against a mossy tree
To view the dew on the far county,
The dew on the forest green.

A lad I spied near our burn side
Wi' a lass beneath an alder tree.
Her cheeks were like the berry brown red
And she all wae and wan to see
And she all wan to see.

“Come sit you down on the grass,” he said,
“On the dewy grass so green.
For the wee birds they have come and gone
Since I my love have seen,” he said,
“Since I my love have seen.”

“Oh I'll not sit with you,” she said,
“No lover I'll be of thine.
For I hear you love a Connaught maid
And your heart's no longer mine,” she said,
”Your heart's no longer mine.”

“Then I will climb the high, high tree
And I'll rob the wild bird's nest.
And back I'll bring what I find there
To the arms that I love the best,” he said,
“To the arms that I love the best.”

Martyn Wyndham-Read sings As I Roved Out

As I roved out one May morning
So early in the spring
I leaned my back on an old garden gate
To hear my true love sing.

To hear my true love sing, my boys,
And to hear what she had to say;
For it's been three quarters of a long year
Since together we did lay.

I said, “My love, come sit by me
Where the grass is growing green,
For it's been three quarters of a long year
Since together we have been.”

“Oh I'll not come and sit by you
Nor be a love of thine,
Since you are engaged to another true love
Then your heart's no longer mine.

“Oh, slowly passed the winter's night
And slowly dawns the day;
It's many the time I wished you were here
Now I wish you were away.”

I wished I was in London town
A-drinking of sweet wine;
I would drink a health to that bonny, bonny lass
That once had this heart of mine.

Jeff Gillett sings The Old Garden Gate

As I walked out on a morning in May
So early in the Spring,
I leaned my back against the old garden gate
For to hear my true lover sing.

To hear my true lover sing, me boys:
To hear what she’d got for to say.
For now it is near to three-quarters of a year
Since you and I together did stray.

O come, my love, and sit you down by me
Where the grass is spreading green;
For now it is near three-quarters of a year
Since you and I together have been.

I’ll not come now and sit down by you:
Not now, nor at any other time;
For I hear you have been courting another pretty girl
And your heart it is no longer mine.

June Tabor sings The Old Garden Gate

As I walked out one May morning
So early in the spring,
I placed my back against the old garden gate
For to hear my true love sing.

“Come now my love and sit down by me,
Where the leaves are springing green.
It's now very near three quarters of a year
Since you and I together have been.”

“I will not come and sit down by you
Nor yet no other man,
Since you have been courting another young girl
Your heart is no longer mine.”

There is a flower I've heard them say,
I wish I could that flower find;
It's called harts-ease by night and by day—
Would it ease my troubled mind?

I cast my anchor in the sea
And it sank down into the sand.
So did my heart all in my body
When I took my false love by the hand.

I'll never believe a man any more,
be his hair yellow, white, or brown,
Unless he was high on the gallows tree
and swearing that he wanted to come down.

So girls, beware of a false lover true,
never mind what a young man might say;
He's like a star on a foggy, foggy morning:
You think he's near, he's far, far away.

Susan McKeown sings The Wee Birds All Have Come and Gone

As I roved out one evening fair
By the verdant braes of Skreen,
I set my back to a hawthorn tree
To view the sun in the west county,
The dew on the forest green.

A lad I spied by our burn side
And a maiden on his knee.
And he was dark as the berry brown red
And she all way and worn to see
All way and worn was she.

“Oh sit you down on the grass,” he said,
“On the dewy grass so green.
For the wee birds have all come and gone
Since I've my true love seen,” he said,
“Since I've my true love seen.”

“Then I'll not sit on the grass,” she said,
“Nor be a lover of thine.
For I hear you have another one
And your heart's no longer mine,” she said,
”And your heart's no longer mine.”

“And I'll not heed what the old man says,
For his days are well nigh done.
And I'll not heed what the young man says,
For he's fair for many's the one,” she said,
For he's fair for many's the one.”

“But I will climb a high, high tree
And rob a wild bird's nest.
And back I'll bring whatever I do find
To the arms that I love the best,” she said,
“To the arms that I love the best.”

(repeat first verse)

Links and Acknowledgements

See also the Mudcat Café thread Origin: The Verdant Braes of Skreen and the related song P Stands for Paddy / T Stands for Thomas.